The Food and Drug Administration plans to institute several changes to the nutrition labels on packaged foods and beverages. Factors of concern for parents and health-minded individuals have helped to prompt the quest for new labeling that would emphasize the total calories, added sugars and certain nutrients, such as Vitamin D and potassium.
The FDA also plans to propose changes to the serving size requirements. Apparently, there is some discrepancy between calculated serving sizes and what studies indicate are the actual patterns of consumption. For example, when someone buys a 32 ounce Coke from McDonald’s, they are not likely to stop at the 8 oz serving size. Usually, they will consume much, much more. New rules would require something that seems a lot more logical, that the whole bottle of soda be determined to be the serving size, which should make calorie counting much easier.
Over twenty years ago, the FDA began requiring serving labels, but apparently they have never revisited the requirements, so a much needed overhaul has surfaced that will match the consumer culture around it. Administration officials within the FDA acknowledge that there has been a shift in shoppers’ priorities regarding nutrition, as people have become more accustomed to checking labels and hunting for healthier ingredients.
Possibly, one could thank the Internet and the information explosion that has followed, making people more aware of things like GMO, Glutens and especially the term Organic. Michelle Obama recently released a statement in which she prized the new plans for updated labeling, saying we should all be able to tell “what’s good for our family.”
For instance, new labels would no longer list “calories from fat” and instead list the total amount of calories found in each serving. Nutritionists have come to discover that it is more important what kind of fat consumers are ingesting, rather than the calories that come from it and the new labels will recite accordingly. Thus, they would describe the total fat vs. saturated fat and trans fat, all points of discussion that have grown more popular with modern health discussion.
Also included in the proposed labels would be how much added sugar is in a product. Currently, it is not necessarily specified how much is naturally occurring sugar versus what the manufacturer has added, but the American Heart Association thinks it’s important to know. They recommend that you limit added sugar to no more than half your daily discretionary calories. For an American male, that would be about 150 calories a day, which is about nine teaspoons. Women are different. The typical American woman should consume no more than 100 calories per day, which comes to about six teaspoons.
Sodium, Vitamin D, potassium, calcium and iron all will have new declaration requirements. Vitamin D, for instance, has been shown to contribute to good bone health and consumers reportedly do not consume as much as is recommended. Potassium, on the other hand, is recommended to keep blood pressure in check.
All tolled, the FDA plans to add roughly 25 new categories that weren’t around 20 years ago, when it began requiring said labels. They also indicated that about 17% of current serving sizes will have to be updated to reflect the proper consumption rates.
By Jeff Rowe